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My Story

Anita | age 61
Teacher
Leoma, TN
11 years, 1 month since her MammoSite treatment.
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In May, 2005 I graduated from Athens State University with a degree in Elementary Education. I was 49 years old. This had been a life long dream of mine and I had set a goal about five years earlier to go for it. It had been about 18 months since my last mammogram and check up because I was busy with school. I set up an appointment with my regular doctor in April and she set up a mammogram.

My mammogram results came back and they found a spot in my right breast. I opted to have a lumpectomy in my hometown of Lawrenceburg, TN at Crockett Hospital. The results were benign and I heaved a sigh of relief. That same week, my sister who is 14 months younger than I, had a radical mastectomy with extenders inserted at the time of her surgery for reconstruction. She did not have to have any other treatments since she opted for the surgery. She has done great and has since had a hysterectomy for a tumor which turned out to be benign.

The next year, I went for my annual mammogram in April and once again, they saw something. I had an ultrasound to make sure that it was not scar tissue since it was in the same breast and almost the same place. However, after the ultrasound, they suggested that I see a surgeon for a lumpectomy.

I called the same surgeon who had done my last surgery and we went in almost one year to the day for the second lumpectomy. This time I was not so lucky and when the Doctor came to see me after the surgery he said the dreaded word – Cancer. It is true, that you don’t hear anything after that word. My family was there and luckily they were able to tell me what the surgeon said. We set up an appointment for me to see him the next week. I went in to see him and he said my options were mastectomy or 30 radiation treatments. Since I live in a rural community, I would have to travel around one hour for the treatments.

I was devastated. I had worked so hard to follow my dream and graduate from college. The first year I did not get a teaching job, but got an aide job at the school in Alabama where I had done my student teaching. I was hoping that I would be able to get a “real” teaching job the next year. I had planned on spending this summer going on interviews and getting a job for the 2006-07 school year. Because of what was going on in my life, I decided that I would choose to have the mastectomy and hopefully, I would be recovered in time to start a new job the first of August. Of course I went online and went to the library to do research. Also, my pastor’s wife who had gone through breast cancer surgery, radiation and chemo the year before gave me some literature.

I have a friend who has ALS and her husband is a doctor. I also have another friend who does consulting work for doctors in the Nashville area. Both of these women are breast cancer survivors and they insisted that I go to Nashville and get a second opinion to make sure that I knew what my options were. My friend with ALS could still talk a little at that time and she said something about a new radiation treatment. My surgeon in Lawrenceburg was going on vacation and I would have to wait a week. So my friend who is the consultant got me worked into Dr. Mark Cooper’s office in Nashville who is affiliated with Baptist and Centennial Hospitals. He came over to his office between surgeries to meet with me. He told me that they would need to look at the surgery notes but I was probably a candidate for the new MammoSite treatment since I had DCIS. We set up my surgery for the next week and he sent for the surgery notes. When he got the notes he noticed that my margins were not clear so he suggested that he do another lumpectomy to make sure my margins were clear. If there was enough breast tissue left (I would have had three lumpectomies,) I would be a candidate for MammoSite.

He also told me that he would take away the scars of the two other lumpectomies. I went into Centennial Hospital for my surgery on June 29th and was able to go home that evening. They inserted the MammoSite catheter during this surgery. Because July 4th was the next week, I started my treatments on the Wednesday after July 4th. My husband was so wonderful during this time. I couldn’t get my incision wet so we had to figure out a way for him to wash my hair. He is almost bald so he wasn’t used to the head of hair that I have.

I went into the oncology radiation department of Baptist Hospital for my first day of treatment. I had to be in Nashville at 7:30, stay all day and then have another treatment at 1:30 in the afternoon. The people at the radiation department at Baptist were so great. The facility is very accommodating and they even have “pretty” pink gowns that wrap around instead of the ugly hospital gowns. My sister-in-law, Sue, went with me on my first day. They told me that I would be tired so I wanted someone with me the first day. We had to leave Lawrenceburg at 5:30 in the morning to get to Nashville by 7:30 because of the traffic.

They had to X-ray me before every treatment to make sure that the MammoSite balloon was still inflated. Then I would go into a room and they hooked up the radiation machine to the catheter. I think my treatments were about eight minutes long. I was a little tired, but it probably had more to do with getting up so early. Sue and I went shopping the first day and had lunch at the mall before my afternoon treatment. I went the next two days by myself. I went to the farmers market and the library. One day I stayed at the radiology department except to go out for lunch. They had rooms you could sit in with a recliner and blankets to read a book or take a nap.

Then right in the middle of my treatment I got a call for a job interview – remember my dream of teaching. I had an interview on Monday July 10th, the fourth day of treatment, in Florence, Alabama. I called my husband’s aunt to see if she could help me out that day. I talked with the people at Baptist and asked them if there was an earlier appointment. I got there a little before 7:00 and they took me right in. They had me out of there before 7:30. I drove back to Lawrenceburg and then another 45 minutes south to Florence, Alabama for my interview. I told the people that I was interviewing with that I might be a little late and that I had a doctor’s appointment, but I did not mention that I was taking radiation for breast cancer. I didn’t want to hurt my chances of getting a job. I went through the interview, drove back to Lawrenceburg and picked up my husband’s aunt and she drove me back to Nashville for my second treatment at 1:30. What a day! My sister went with me on my last day of treatment because they were going to give me a valium in order to take the catheter out. We went to Opry Mills in between the treatments that day. I was scared about the catheter coming out, but it really was not that bad. I was so glad that it was over. I couldn’t believe that I was through in five days.

The worst thing that I remember about the whole ordeal was not being able to take a shower like I really wanted to. It really gets hot in Tennessee in July, and after that last treatment the first thing I did when I got home was to take a shower and wash my hair. Also, the position of the MammoSite made it uncomfortable to wear a bra. I cut a hole in my bra so the catheter could stick out. That was more comfortable than mashing it under the bra. The incision where the catheter was inserted was sensitive and my bra was uncomfortable for about five months. I have almost no discomfort now. Because my surgeon took away my other scars, I actually got a breast lift on one side, but it has relaxed some and I am almost even now.

I had a follow-up mammogram six months after my surgery and I was really dreading it because my incision still hurt sometimes. I was afraid that it was going to hurt but it wasn’t as bad as some of the mammograms I had before the surgery.

I have another mammogram coming up soon and I am hoping that everything is going to be fine. The doctors have assured me that MammoSite is as effective as conventional radiation.

I have placed my life in God’s hands. I am not going to live my life in fear of the results of my next mammogram. I have a wonderful support system in my husband, my daughter, my mom and dad, sisters and brother, my stepson and his family and a host of wonderful friends. Many prayers were lifted when I got my diagnosis and I believe that God opened the door for me to find out about this new treatment and worked out everything so I could get in and get on the road to recovery.

By the way, I did get a teaching job two weeks after my last treatment. It wasn’t the one I interviewed for during treatment, but they called the principal that I was working for and told him if he was not going to hire me they were. The principal called me the same day and told me they had something for me. I started teaching school on August 1, 2006 as a sixth grade teacher at Lauderdale County High School in Rogersville, AL just two and a half weeks after my last treatment!

Anita, breast cancer survivor for 7 months and counting.

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This profile is solely the words of the person who received MammoSite Targeted Radiation Therapy to treat breast cancer. Note that this profile is specific to this particular person, and experiences will vary.